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Finding Uses for the Mundane

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By Allan Holmes October 5, 2010

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Improving health care outcomes depends on a lot of things, including expanding the use of telemedicine, which will make it easier for patients in remote areas to see a primary care physician or a specialist. The downside is the required equipment can be costly. But that could change if technologists come up with innovative ways to use every-day computer equipment, say, like webcams.

A graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has done just that. He found a way to turn the low-cost camera that connects to a PC into a stethoscope. Writing in the Optics Express journal, a team led by Ming-Zher Poh, a student in the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology program, showed how a webcam could be used "to monitor a person's pulse by tracking minute changes in the way light reflects off their face as blood flows beneath the skin," the White Coat Notes blog reported. The team is working on altering the camera so it can measure oxygen saturation, respiration rate and blood pressure.

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